My family is blessed with a wonderful network of support. We have family, friends, and a church that is fully behind us and has helped us on this crazy journey of parenting twelve children, some with more than your typical number of special needs.
Sadly, I realize that we are fairly unique in this, and that many adoptive families feel alone and isolated as they navigate the ups and downs of adoptive parenting. Often people want to support adoptive families, but don’t know how. It can also be awkward for families to reach out and ask for help. It is a humbling thing to do because our society does not encourage people to admit that they cannot do it all. With that in mind, I want to share the ways we have been supported by our extended family and community so that it can give others ideas of how adoptive families can be supported.
This is probably one of the easiest ways to support a family and one of the most appreciated. When we have arrived home with our new children at various times, friends and family have inundated us with meals. For one adoption, I don’t think I cooked for three weeks. It allowed us time to get over jetlag, help our new child manage all the changes, and help our other children adjust to the new normal. But it doesn’t stop there. We’ve had children who have had surgery and the meals came. And the best? When a friend would call and say, “I have some food to bring by. Are you home?” Inevitably, it would arrive on a day that was feeling particularly out of control or short of money.
We feel blessed and loved every time this happens. Do not think just because a family seems smiling and together when you see them at church that they don’t also need some TLC. If you have the urge to send a meal (or cookies…) or even just a loaf of bread, don’t ignore it. You will make that family’s day, I promise.
Another way that we have felt supported all these years is to know that there are people out there who often keep our family in their prayers. These are not the cursory ‘Oh, I’ll pray for you and then forget about it’ types, but people who take this job seriously. They ask for specific needs, and never fail to ask about how those needs are when we see them. Often, these are people we don’t even see regularly, but they have been diligent in praying for us.
When things are hard, it is good to know that there are prayer warriors out there who are lifting us up. Pray for the adoptive families you know. Ask specifically what their challenges are, pray for them often, and then follow-up with them to see how things are going.
Those of us in the adoption community, particularly if you have a larger than normal family, know the pain of others not sharing your excitement about the newest members of your family. For us, thankfully, these negative responses have been relatively few, but when they happen they can be extremely hurtful and steal a little of the joy we have about our soon-to-be new children.
We relish every person who reacts with excitement and congratulations. We are joyful about each new child and want to share that joy with others whom we care about. If someone tells you they are adopting (or are pregnant… the same rules apply), there is only one appropriate response. Smile broadly and say congratulations. Do not respond, “Are you crazy?” Do not hint that maybe this child will be more than they can handle. Do not ask, “What is wrong with this one?” Smile and be happy for the child who will now have a family. Share in that family’s joy; do not diminish it.
Life can be hard sometimes. We have been the beneficiaries of some wonderful friends and family members who are there ready to help out. Sometimes this has taken the form of a friend coming and taking some children out on a special outing to give my husband and me an evening free. Sometimes it takes the form of asking a child over for a playdate because a change is needed for everyone.Other times it has involved a family member hosting a child for a few weeks.
Parenting hurt children can be exhausting, for both the parent and the child. It can be beneficial to give each other some breathing room to regroup and rest before rejoining the dance of attachment and health once more.
Do you know an adoptive family parenting hurt children? Take the time to get to know them. Take the time to get to know their children. Learn about trauma and attachment. And then ask if you can help. Do the parents need a night out? A weekend away? Be another person who loves and supports this struggling child. No one can have too many people loving them and supporting them. And no parents can have too many people rooting for them as well.
Acts of Service
Families who are concentrating their resources on raising children, particularly those who require therapy and medical care, often do not have a lot left over for other things. Our house and yard will never make it into the pages of a glossy lifestyle magazine. We will never drive the latest car. We will never take the fanciest vacations. This has been our choice, and we’re (pretty much) OK with it. But every so often, the people around us do something amazing which both humbles and blesses us.
Last spring our church came and did some major painting and repair work on our house. One adoption trip, friends got together and did a full house cleaning while we were gone to welcome us home. We have had people drive our children places, act as translators, helped search for appropriate medical care, and been a listening and sympathetic ear. Listen to the families you know, in what small way can you be another pair of hands for them? What thing could you do that they just don’t have the time or resources to manage for themselves right now?
Adoption is not inexpensive. Most families scramble to come up with the funds to bring their child home, and others then scramble to provide medical care when the insurance system inevitably does not cover everything. Our church and a community of people have blessed us more than once in the aide of bringing our children home. Time and time again we were overwhelmed by people’s generosity. Without the help of these friends and supporters, we could never have funded our last adoptions. We are forever grateful to all of these people.
Do you know someone who is working on an adoption? Ask yourself what you could do to help with their funding. It doesn’t have to be much, even the little bits add up. And believe me, even a small token from someone is worth so much more to the family. Not everyone can write thousand dollar checks, and we realize that. It is the thought and effort behind even the smallest gift that makes it invaluable to the family.
These are the biggest ways we have been supported. What have I missed? Have you been supported by others in a tangible way that made you feel loved? How else can others help adoptive families? Please share in the comments.